Why are you shouting?

by Kay Omar

I got on a bus today where the conductor for no sane reason was bent on barking like a dog at passengers who failed to pay him his money.

The volume of his barking was so ridiculous that it prompted a retaliation, albeit of unequal volume, from a passenger. Still, the message was clear: “If you insist on yelling like an uncontrolled dog, you will get the beating you deserve.”

The conductor aimed for more braggadocio, but was soon forced to calm down and carry on with collecting money from other passengers. In the end, and after all the threats, he still failed to collect the “full” fare from the passenger and pretended not to notice as the boy got down from the bus, passing the conductor with his chest all pumped up for a fight.

Whenever I witness such altercations between conductor (or driver) and passenger, I am always forced to wonder where the general contempt for driver and bus conductor comes from. It’s like the case of the chicken and the egg. Do we board a bus ready to “give it” (be rude) to the conductor simply because he’s conductor? Or do conductors call such treatment on their heads as a result of uncouth behaviour learnt on the streets, or from wherever?

Be that as it may, there is a common distrust between passengers and conductors which probably stems from the fear of being taken advantage of, more strongly on the part of the passenger. Many are the stories of forgotten change and spontaneous/ hike of bus fares.

To be fair to conductors, there are also stories of the proffered 1000 Naira on a 20 Naira bus fare – and on a Monday morning too. Where is he supposed to get change after dropping off his weekend earnings with his boss?! There are also the wise-asses who try to get away without paying altogether. Then there are those who just live for intimidating the bus conductor – those who insist on getting on the bus even when they disagree on the fare.

The last set of people are particularly annoying based on the case they make. If you are one of these, I say to you: you always have the choice of waiting for another bus instead of making a nuisance of yourself all in the name of “fighting for your rights”. Remember (most) “public” transport in Lagos is derived from private investment, hence the lack of proper regulation. Remember too, that the driver and conductor are hustling for their daily bread just like you and I. It’s like going to the market – you can choose to visit the cheaper store so SHUT UP with the self-righteous indignation and get off the damn bus! Still, with all these and more, there are special cases such as that of the mad-dog conductor that warrants NO justification.

The term “speak as you would love to be spoken to” is one that most people that have dealings in and around public places (buses, markets, offices etc) need to carry around in their head; be you conductor or passenger, market woman or housewife, policeman or private citizen.

Respect is reciprocal. Let’s “tone down” the madness.

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